Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michael Hingson, Founder of The Michael Hingson Grout, Inc. and Chief Vision Officer of accessiBe, located in Victorville, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
TMHG, I am a keynote/public speaker discussing Trust and Teamwork, Lessons to be learned from the September 11 attacks, the Human-Animal Bond, and Moving from Diversity to Inclusion. I also consult on assistive technology for blind and low vision persons. I am the Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. I help develop internal and external messaging and help introduce internal accessiBe to blindness and how to best market in the Americas. I also run a podcast for accessiBe entitled Unstoppable Mindset.
Tell us about yourself
I have a Master's degree in Physics. From my science training, I learned most of all how to pay attention to details in whatever I do. I have always been technical and bring a technical curiosity to my work. I helped in the development of the first reading machine for the blind developed by Dr. Ray Kurzweil. I have been in professional sales since 1979, selling a variety of high-tech and assistive technology products. On September 11, 2001, I was working as the Mid-Atlantic Sales manager for Quantum Corporation. I opened an office for Quantum on the 78th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center. In September, I escaped from Tower One along with my guide dog, Roselle.
Contrary to what most say, Roselle did NOT "lead" me down the stairs. She was a guide dog who depended on me to provide her with directions as to what I wanted her to do. She, at the same time, would make sure we were safe as we walked. It is all about teamwork. As I often say, "I learned more about Trust and Teamwork from working with eight guide dogs than I ever learned from all the management experts in the business." After September 11, people heard about my story and began contacting me to come to speak to their organizations to talk about what we should learn from September 11. I also, of course, get the opportunity to educate people about the realities of blindness, not the myths about helpless blind persons that most people continue to believe.
In 2020 I learned of accessiBe. In January 2021, I was asked by the founder of accessiBe to join the company. The position of Chief Vision Officer was created. accessiBe develops products to help make websites more accessible for persons with disabilities. accessiBe utilizes both an AI component as well as manual coding services and consulting to make now over 150,000 websites throughout the world more usable for persons with a variety of disabilities. So today, I work for and help accessiBe, as well as continuing to speak whenever I am invited to do so.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I believe my biggest accomplishment is having the opportunity to help others make good sales decisions and learn how to create the best possible teams to make their businesses the most successful they can be.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Not allowing yourself to be spread too thin or to lose sight of your vision. Also, one of the most important things I can ever teach anyone is to analyze what you are doing and adapt when necessary constantly. Also, surround yourself with good, high-performing colleagues and friends who will be willing to advise you even when you are going down the wrong path.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- First, Don't let your sight get in the way of your vision (taken from my book Thunder Dog. Again, always be open and look around you. Think daily about what you did that day in order to discover what you can do better.
- Second, always work to turn perceived liabilities into assets. Blindness, for example, is a characteristic that most people think severely limits someone. Not true. Almost daily, I encounter people who believe that blindness is the worst thing that can ever happen to someone. My job is to change that perceived liability. When in the past, I was seeking sales positions, I would often be told that a blind person could not possibly sell products. What I said in response is that as a blind person, I sell constantly to convince someone I can travel, live, function, and be as good and capable as anyone else. I point out that when most salespeople work for a company, they come to work, go home, and for them, the job is over. On the other hand, I have to be selling constantly, and I demonstrate that. I then ask, so do you want a person who considers sales a job and then, at the end of the day, the sales person goes home, or do you want to hire someone who truly understands the art and science of sales and who actually sells as a way of life?
- Third, as said above, never let your sight get in the way of your vision. Most people are not curious enough about life or what they do. They accept without asking "why" or "why not"? If you are going to open and run a business, always be a learner and explore alternatives. You will have a better chance of success by doing so.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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